Rigour and grounded theory

Nurse Res. 2011;18(4):17-22. doi: 10.7748/nr2011.


Aim: This paper explores ways to enhance and demonstrate rigour in a grounded theory study.

Background: Grounded theory is sometimes criticised for a lack of rigour. Beck (1993) identified credibility, auditability and fittingness as the main standards of rigour for qualitative research methods. These criteria were evaluated for applicability to a Straussian grounded theory study and expanded or refocused where necessary. The author uses a Straussian grounded theory study (Cooney, In press) to examine how the revised criteria can be applied when conducting a grounded theory study.

Review methods: Strauss and Corbin (1998b) criteria for judging the adequacy of a grounded theory were examined in the context of the wider literature examining rigour in qualitative research studies in general and grounded theory studies in particular. A literature search for 'rigour' and 'grounded theory' was carried out to support this analysis.

Conclusion: Criteria are suggested for enhancing and demonstrating the rigour of a Straussian grounded theory study. These include: cross-checking emerging concepts against participants' meanings, asking experts if the theory 'fit' their experiences, and recording detailed memos outlining all analytical and sampling decisions. IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH PRACTICE: The criteria identified have been expressed as questions to enable novice researchers to audit the extent to which they are demonstrating rigour when writing up their studies. However, it should not be forgotten that rigour is built into the grounded theory method through the inductive-deductive cycle of theory generation. Care in applying the grounded theory methodology correctly is the single most important factor in ensuring rigour.

MeSH terms

  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Nursing Research / methods*
  • United Kingdom